Conservation Controversies Italy

Culture minister calls for “more acceptable” ads

Sandro Bondi defends commercial sponsorship but says new rules are needed

The mayor of Venice says visitors who want to see the Bridge of Sighs should buy a book

VENICE. On 4 October, the Italian minister of culture, Sandro Bondi, issued the following statement in reaction to the Venice in Peril petition to disallow the use of advertisements on historic buildings (The Art Newspaper, October, p37). “The advertisements in Venice that have been discussed in the media in the last few days are necessary to make up for the limited resources available for the restoration of historic buildings. Involving private enterprise [in the protection] of our artistic heritage is positive and irreplaceable.” Bondi went on to say that such advertisements “are regulated by the law governing the cultural assets and landscape of Italy and in each case are the product of the judgement of the local superintendent, who has the difficult task of interpreting local sensibilities”.

Taking account, however, of “the importance of this subject and of the appeals coming also from abroad”, the minister has asked the ministry’s secretary general [Roberto Cecchi] “to draw up more consistent and appropriate criteria so that the advertisements on historic buildings will be more attractive and stay up for less time, while still allowing the system of sponsorship to continue”.

The petition was in reaction to the proliferation of huge advertisements, now lit up at night, on the façades of major buildings in Venice. It was signed by the architect Norman Foster; Mark Jones, director of the V&A; Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Neil MacGregor, director, British Museum; Lars Nittve, director, Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Mikhail Piotrovsky, director, The Hermitage, St Petersburg; Malcolm Rogers, director, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Martin Roth, general director, Dresden State Museums. It was widely reported in the Italian and international media.

In the local newspapers, the mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, condemned the signers of the petition for being stupid and misunderstanding the needs of Venice, and treating the Venetians as “savages with rings in their noses”. He added: “If people want to see the [Bridge of Sighs] they should go home and look at a picture of it in a book.”

The chairman of Venice in Peril, Anna Somers Cocks (and our editorial director­), responded in the Gazzettino newspaper that the petitioners were well aware of the financial situation, which depends on central government, not the town council; that they were among the countless people around the world who love Venice and wish that its protection were a priority with the Italian government, which is clearly not the case at the moment, and that the mayor might think of channelling international opinion to support his case with the Italian treasury.

Culture Minister Bondi
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